Stewardship: Story by Story
September 14, 2021 by Rose Niles
Back in 2019, I was recovering from several traumatic losses. My best friend died suddenly on her way home from a church mission trip. I fell on a work trip and fractured my elbow. Around the same time, my family suffered death and loss as well. I was weary, worn, and sad. I was hanging out with Job. One day I looked up at my wall and saw with new eyes a small plaque that had been given to me by the women of a local church during a retreat. It reads: remember who you wanted to be. YES, I felt in my bones, seeing it as if for the first time. How, I wondered, how will I do this? Suddenly I remembered the excited voice of a friend who went to the public media forum story slam event the Moth Story hour and told her true story.
Later that same week, without telling anyone, I signed up to tell a story at the Moth Story hour held in a warehouse in downtown Houston, the largest venue of its type in the country. It was a new and scary context for me. After a lifetime of public speaking, I was surprisingly terrified but anchored as I told a true story that mattered to me and might to others. Unbeknownst to me some church friends were in the crowd. They celebrated my courage, told me how it impacted their own journey, and sent me pictures they took that still travel with me to remind me of how my voice shook as I told my story of grief and hope.
Sometimes in this pandemic it feels like we as a church and a culture are back where I was in 2019. Grieving, weary, aching, frightened: asking for the way forward to new life rooted in abundance that flows from the heart of God.
The practice of inviting a broad community to tell our story of impact is life-giving as part of cultivating a culture of generosity. It is a way to follow as disciples of Jesus whose life and ministry center around telling stories (parables). I hope that in this Stewardship season you are excited to open the floor, the forum, the zoom, to generosity by telling the true story of how, who, what where and why God has called resurrection life into being in you, your ministry, your church. Celebrate your stories and invite the spirit of generosity to respond! You might even consider hosting your own generosity story slam event like the Moth Story Hour!
Invite your congregation’s stories of impact. Share them. Repeat. Do this year-round in many ways (including in the form of a narrative budget). Where do you see the work of the faithful people of God in your midst? Make a list. Invite new voices. Make short videos, create minutes for impact that tell of the generosity of time, talent, treasure and love as expressed in your mission work. Thinking about it? Just do it. Try using story prompts:
I was sick and you (the church) visited me…
I was hungry and you (the church) fed me…
I was lost and you (the church) found me and comforted me…
I was lonely and you (the church) called me…
I was diminished and you (the church) named my worthiness…
I was tired and you (the church) said sabbath rest…
Let me tell you about it…
Weaving a culture of generosity by storytelling is energized by many voices. Steady voices. Shaky voices. Funny voices. Sad voices. Old voices. New voices.
Celebrate your stories and invite the spirit of generosity to respond! We never know who might show up to be healed by telling their true story of faith, (even on zoom). Or how many will be inspired to deepen their relationship with God through the practice of responding in gratitude to the stories we share.
Find free resources here (including tools for creating narrative budgets that tell our stories of faith in action!)
Find additional story prompts in the Beatitudes for Mathew 25 found in the worship materials:
Beatitudes for a Matthew 25 Church These phrases, based on the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1–12) and the Matthew 25 priorities of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), may be used as a call to worship, response to the sermon or charge at the conclusion of worship.
Blessed are those who serve the poor, they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who share the wealth, they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who work for good, they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who open doors, they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who break down walls, they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who challenge hate, they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who live their faith, they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who speak the truth, they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who show Christ’s love, they will be called the children of Go
“Let me tell you how I have experienced this blessing…”